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  1. Hayduke and Bonnie
    June 4, 2016 @ 12:20 am


    We have reached the end of your two-part series.

    We suppose that we should start this critique at the beginning: Why did you choose to emphasize the history of naming the lakes by gathering resources from strictly Anglo-originating sources? Should English readers assume that there were no names applied to geological formations before the advent of white skin? Why did you completely ignore the oral history of the Haudenosaunee? It is an insincere apologia to court the countryside. The water has been here before us.

    With all politeness, your perspective is askew. There is no point in naming that which is, already. Furthermore, by simply calling this area the “Finger Lakes,” one is adhering to folklore & religiosity. Attempting, as you do, to apply the scientific approach of European “Enlightenment” does nothing more than short-circuit the importance of breathing in what you have called the Finger Lakes. There is no interaction, it seems, beyond exploitation and extermination: By the same names that named the Finger Lakes. The real concern should be not from which the Finger Lakes was named, but for how to revise a future where the Finger Lakes is secure.

    Since you understand the land and its history, we believe that you have a strong connection to its preservation. We look forward to your piece about the perils of the hydrofracking industry, with special attention to how it will change the name of the Finger Lakes.

    Hayduke and Bonnie

  2. Michael Brewster (@BrewCuse)
    June 4, 2016 @ 11:56 am

    Hello Monkeywrenchers!

    As a guest poster on this blog, I had one goal for the article- to explore how the name “Finger Lakes” came to be applied in English to a geological feature that pre-existed the English as a colonizing force and as a language in and of itself. In doing so, I was limited in several ways: to write something for an audience of people who might want to learn some history and also to write something short.

    I started with the question “Why is Oneida Lake not considered one of the Finger Lakes.” In doing so, I also had to consider Onondaga’s status as not a lake like the others, but I could not go deeply into the particular and specific sacred centrality of the lake to the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee as a whole for two reasons. One, I am non-Native and I take my status very seriously. I don’t feel I have the authority to pass along oral traditions that are not mine, but I did, in the first part, quote from David Cusick, which is a widely-available retelling. As a non-Native scholar, I respect that there are stories and traditions that are not mine, but as a person who has Native friends and family, I recognize that what passes in the Anglo tradition as “Indian lore” is often fictional and repackaged truths that separate ideas from reality. I felt the need to illuminate Anglo lore passing as Indian truth. This forum is too limited to address all, so I purposefully chose to limit my inquiry into, admittedly, the format of Enlightenment-based epistemologies and not as Professor Daniel Heath Justice, Cherokee, calls them, “other ways of knowing.”

    With all politeness on my part, I disagree that these two articles should have had any purpose other than that which they are, a relatively simple and straightforward discussion of a region of colonized New York. You might be interested, or you might not, in my further work on the Finger Lakes region (using the English name because I am not claiming to be part of another’s tradition) looking at how the colonizers “invented” the area, though, as you point out, it did already exist. If we can understand truly the misconceptions and mistakes of our predecessors, I believe that we can reach a future where the Lakes are again respected and protected.

    Finally, personally, I have supported the We Are Seneca Lake efforts with time and money, and I have written on some environmental issues surrounding the Crestwood LPG plan. I know that this article does not address any of that, but as I stated above, as a guest in another’s home, I respected the host. Because I am writing an environmental history of the Finger Lakes that includes the colonization of the Indigenous peoples (mainly Haudenosaunee), I would invite anyone who cares to talk to me about other perspectives so that I can learn. I am sorry that the scope of this article did not reach as far as you had liked, but I am not finished with my work. I have read James Thomas Stevens, Eric Gansworth, Maurice Kenny, and Beth Brant and they urge me to keep going on my journey.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my words and open a dialogue.


  3. Louise Bement
    March 3, 2018 @ 10:32 am

    What fun! I love good documented research.

  4. How The Finger Lakes Was Named: Part 1 |
    March 11, 2019 @ 9:40 am

    […] CLICK HERE TO READ PART TWO of How the Finger Lakes Really Got Their Name […]